Clashes as Israel gets set to raze West Bank Bedouin village

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Israeli security forces arrest a demonstrator protesting against demolitions in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank on July 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Israeli security forces arrest a demonstrator protesting against demolitions in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank on July 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Israeli security forces arrest a demonstrator protesting against demolitions in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank on July 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Israeli security forces arrest a demonstrator protesting against demolitions in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank on July 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Israeli security forces arrest a demonstrator protesting against demolitions in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank on July 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 04 July 2018
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Clashes as Israel gets set to raze West Bank Bedouin village

  • Heavy equipment, including at least one bulldozer, were seen around the village
  • Israeli authorities say the village and its school were built illegally and in May

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Scuffles broke out on Wednesday between Israeli authorities and protesters who feared preparations were underway to raze a Bedouin village in a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, despite international calls for a reprieve.
Protesters, including some waving Palestinian flags, tried to block a bulldozer and scuffled with police at Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem. Some climbed onto the bulldozer in protest.
Israeli police said 11 people were arrested. Israeli rights group B'Tselem said they included the organisation's own head of field research.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 35 people injured, with four taken to hospital. Police said the wounded included three officers, including one taken to hospital.
Police said stones were thrown at officers.
The incident came after activists said the Israeli military had issued a warrant to the 173 residents of Khan al-Ahmar on Tuesday, authorising soldiers to seize access roads to the village.
Heavy equipment was seen around the village on Wednesday, prompting speculation a road was being prepared to facilitate its evacuation and demolition.
"Today they are proceeding with infrastructure work to facilitate the demolition and forcible transfer of residents," Amit Gilutz, spokesman for B'Tselem, told AFP.
Israeli authorities say the village and its school were built illegally, and in May the supreme court rejected a final appeal against its demolition.
But activists say the villagers had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits, as the documents are almost never issued to Palestinians for building in parts of the West Bank where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.
Israel authorities say they have offered villagers an alternative site.
The village is made up mainly of makeshift structures of tin and wood, as is traditionally the case with Bedouin villages.
It is unclear when the demolition will take place.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat condemned the demolition plans and appealed to the international community.
"Are we coming to see one day that Israel can be held accountable?" he asked journalists in Ramallah.
"If not, it means you're pushing this region towards a deeper hole of violence and counter-violence and extremes."
Britain's minister of state for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, visited the village in May and called on the Israeli government to show restraint.
He warned that any forced relocation "could constitute forcible transfer of people as far as the United Nations is concerned."
Forcible transfer is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Khan al-Ahmar is located east of Jerusalem near several major Israeli settlement blocs and close to a highway leading to the Dead Sea.
Activists are concerned continued Israeli settlement construction in the area could effectively divide the West Bank in two.
In another Bedouin village in the same region, Abu Nuwar, Israel carried out a series of demolitions Wednesday on what it described as illegally built structures.
B'Tselem said nine residential structures and three agricultural ones were demolished, leaving 62 people homeless.
The Israeli defence ministry's COGAT unit for civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories said the demolitions had taken place after the "owners of the buildings failed to utilise the planning procedures to their fullest extent".
"This despite the fact that they were given the opportunity to enquire in the matter and were told that if they did not, the illegal construction would be demolished," it said in a statement.


Syria’s Druze minority: walking a war-time tightrope

Updated 24 min 48 sec ago
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Syria’s Druze minority: walking a war-time tightrope

  • Daesh began attacking Sweida province in 2015, first targeting Khalkhalah military airport
  • Syria’s Druze have protected their heartland in Sweida with their own forces

BEIRUT: Syria’s Druze minority, whose men are being called up for military service by Damascus, is struggling to insulate itself from the conflict that has engulfed the country since 2011.
Here is a summary of the community’s profile, its role in Syria’s conflict and the attacks it has faced.

The Druze community accounted for around three percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million.
They are located mainly in the southern province of Sweida with smaller pockets around Damascus and in the northwest, although some have fled militant-held parts of the latter area.
Druze are monotheistic and considered Muslim, but the sect is otherwise highly secretive, includes mystical elements such as reincarnation, and does not allow new converts.
Some 200,000 Druze are located in neighboring Lebanon and over 100,000 are in Israel, while 18,000 live in the Israeli-occupied Golan.

Syria’s Druze have been split by the uprising that erupted in 2011 against President Bashar Assad, who had long portrayed himself as a protector of the country’s minorities.
Druze should not be seen “as being neutral in this war — it’s more multifaceted and the Druze are not a monolithic bloc,” said Tobias Lang, an analyst focused on Druze populations in the Middle East.
One of the first soldiers to defect from Syria’s army in protest at its handling of demonstrations was Druze officer Khaldun Zeineddine, who later died in clashes against regime forces.
Others remained firmly loyal, like General Issam Zahreddine, one of the highest-ranking Druze army officers who died last year in a mine blast after battling the Daesh group in Syria’s east.
Druze leaders have often tried to maintain a relationship with the regime to keep their areas autonomous and spare them from government attacks.
One symbol of that complex relationship was Wahid Al-Balous, a Druze religious authority who pushed for the sect’s soldiers to be deployed near their hometowns, rather than in other provinces.
Balous, who died in a car bomb attack in Sweida in 2015, spoke out against both militants and Assad.

Syria’s Druze have protected their heartland in Sweida with their own forces.
The most powerful has been the Sheikhs of Dignity, which was headed by Balous and included fighters and other religious figures.
Sheikhs of Dignity has fought fierce battles against the Daesh group and Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.
Other militias have been closely linked to the regime, including the Dareh Al-Watan (Shield of the Nation), a Druze force founded in April 2015 with 2,000 fighters.
Such groups appear to have protected Sweida’s sons from compulsory military service, with authorities turning a blind eye so long as young men fight in units not opposed to the regime.
But with the regime hungry for fresh conscripts, that deal appears to be coming apart at the seams and Assad has now called on young Druze men to serve.
His appeal came after Damascus announced the release this month of Druze women and children who had been kidnapped during a July attack by Daesh.

That onslaught by the militants left more than 260 people dead, mostly civilians. It was the worst attack against the minority so far but not the first.
A car bomb in 2012 ripped through Damascus’ Jaramana suburb, which is mostly Druze and Christian.
In 2013 and 2014, fierce fighting between Syrian rebels and pro-regime Druze forces rocked Sweida province and Druze areas closer to Damascus.
Daesh began attacking Sweida province in 2015, first targeting Khalkhalah military airport.
The same year, 20 Druze Syrians were killed in a shoot-out with Al-Qaeda militants in the village of Qalb Lawzah in northwestern Idlib province.
Druze residents of Qalb Lawzah had come out against the regime a year into Syria’s uprising.
In 2016, Daesh beheaded four laborers in an area it controlled outside Damascus, accusing them of being Druze.
And in 2017, a car bomb killed nine people in Hader, a regime-held village in the southwestern province of Quneitra mostly populated by Druze.